Oregon Ducks 2015 Team Feels Like the End Of Oregon Football In 2007


The way the 2015 Oregon Ducks football season is playing out, at least from the quarterback situation, it feels an awful lot like the end of the 2007 season, when a season that included National Championship and Heisman dreams went down in flames.

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In case you do not recall 2007, here’s what happened. Dennis Dixon was Oregon’s Senior QB. As the Ducks kept winning with this new-fangled fast offense brought in by some unknown offensive coordinator from New Hampshire by the name of Chip Kelly, Dixon’s stock continued to rise. The one-loss Ducks cracked the top ten, and after beating #6 Arizona State in early November were number two and poised to become the first number one team in Oregon history. Dixon was a Heisman front-runner.

But Dixon tore his ACL in the Arizona State game. His season was done- but he tried to play the next week at Arizona anyway. Dixon crumpled to a heap without being touched. Arizona won the game and Oregon searched for a new quarterback to replace Dixon.

The next week, UCLA shut out Oregon at the Rose Bowl. This game was so bad, it reminded me of the Oregon teams of the 80’s that didn’t seem to know the way to the end zone. UCLA didn’t exactly tear things up either, managing just three field goals and one fourth-quarter touchdown in the 16-0 game. I felt fortunate watching this game at a bar. I feel fortunate now not being able to find any “highlights” of this game. Oregon’s three QB’s that day- Brady Leaf, Justin Roper, and Cody Kempt- went a combined 11 for 39 with 105 passing yards. Leaf, a senior, got hurt that game, leaving the Ducks with just two active QB’s, both redshirt freshmen.

In the Civil War, this banged up Ducks club still almost beat the Beavers. Oregon State won in double overtime on a 25-yard James Rodgers sprint for their first win at Autzen since 1993, 38-31. It is also, as of this writing, OSU’s last win at Autzen since 1993, and their last win in the series, period.

Roper made his first career start in the Sun Bowl against South Florida. The Bulls were 6 and a half point favorites, but Oregon romped, 56-21. The key was not Roper throwing four touchdowns, it was Jonathan Stewart running for 253 yards, a career- and Sun Bowl-high that made Stewart an easy game MVP choice.

But Roper was nobody’s idea of the best QB to lead the Ducks going forward (he would end up transferring to Montana). So Chip Kelly recruited to fit his system. He brought in three players to compete with Roper and Nate Costa, a guy who ended up being plagued by the injury bug throughout his career.

Those three players were Jeremiah Masoli, Darron Thomas, and Chris Harper. Harper wanted the QB job but soon saw the writing on the wall, switched to receiver, and eventually transferred back home to Kansas State (where he eventually lost to the Ducks in the last game of his college career, the 2013 Fiesta Bowl).

The other two ended up being pretty good QB’s for the Ducks. Off the field, a different story.

The parallels between the end of 2007 and all of 2015 are pretty simple for me. Oregon’s Heisman guy leaves, and though Oregon thinks they have a senior replacement ready to go- in 2007 it was Brady Leaf- he just doesn’t measure up. Then there’s a scramble to find somebody, anybody, who can make the offense go.

In the off-season of 2007, Oregon found two quarterbacks that would help propel them into the stratosphere and set the stage for the greatest Oregon football player ever, that Marcus Mariota fellow.

When Dennis Dixon crumpled to a heap in Tucson, nobody expected the greatest era in Oregon football history was just two seasons away. But it was. The QB parallels of 2007 and 2015 are too big to ignore. We can only hope the rest of it plays out the same way.